I’ve had this idea for awhile that it might be fun to write about a world with no words. But that would be impossible to write about so I changed it to a world where communication is illegal and finally started it. This is a big dumb sci-fi/dystopia thing. I recognize the ludicrousness of it and I like it, but maybe tomorrow I won’t. It would involve a group of rogue low-ranking government employees who steal a time machine and try to stop the whole thing from happening. Pretty dumb, right? But kind of cool. No. Very cool. You don’t judge me. I judge you.
October 31, Year 3
“My fellow citizens of the world,” the man says and then pauses to look into the cameras hovering around him. “It is in this most exciting and frightening of times that we must look at ourselves and our place in not only the present but also in the past and in the future. We must contextualize what we were then with what we are now and what we will be soon.
“Which is why both myself and the governing body of this planet have decided a radical re-thinking of communication is both necessary and deeply beneficial to us as humans. At the end of this quarter—no later than December 31—you will be issued a standard “thought-piece,” with which you will receive all necessary communication from your government. Effective January 1, Year 4, the only communication you will receive will come from us and it will come from your “thought-piece.” In light of recent ongoing attempts at mutiny and malicious overthrow, myself and my closest Cabinet members have come to the conclusion that free and open communication—be it spoken or written—between citizens is too much of a threat to this great planet. More instructions will follow, but our decision is final. January 1, the start of Year 4, will go down in history as one of the most important days of this planet’s existence—the day the first step was taken toward worldwide unity.”
November 1, Year 3
“…many citizens are upset about The Leader’s newest decree—that of a ban on all speech to begin at the start of Year 4—claiming that it directly defies the very concept of freedom and humanity. Users of the popular social media websites Twitter and Facebook took to their profiles to express their grievances. No official response has come from either The Leader or His Cabinet, though further instructions have been promised. This is News 1, your only source.”
November 1, Year 3 (continued)
If you’re reading this, then we’ve succeeded. I know that’s a corny way to start this off, something ripped straight from the screenplay of a political thriller from The Years Before, but it’s starting to feel like that. It’s been almost two days since The Leader announced his latest decree, a ban on all speech and communication, and things over here are in crisis mode. I work in the same building that you saw on television two nights ago—in fact, I’m two floors above that same conference room where The Leader made his announcement—and everyone’s face is pale with terror. Nobody’s getting any work done at all. How can they expect us to?
Reggie wheels over to me.
“Crazy shit,” he says, for the fourth time.
“Yep,” I say, fingers trembling.
“What d’you think’s gonna happen to, you know, to us?”
“Like, you and me specifically?”
“No, not…well, I mean, yes, you and me, but not just us. Everyone.”
“I really have no idea.”
“You’re an analyst. Shouldn’t you know what’s gonna happen?”
“First of all, you’re an analyst too. And second, we’re not…soothsayers. There’s no way to know.”
“Mmm,” he says. The previous train of thought is gone, and he’s on to a new one. “Do you think they’ll let us talk? Like, all The Cabinet workers?”
“I…I doubt it. I’m almost positive there’s no hope for us or for anyone else in this department. We’re almost the lowest rank. Besides, what’s He gonna need analyzed after this happens? How angry and terrified people are?”
“Mmm,” Reggie says. I usually can’t stand him, would have told him I need to get back to work by now, but conversation is limited now. All of a sudden we turned a cornet and the end’s popped up right in fucking front of us. Why not talk to Reggie while I still can?
“Are you scared?” I ask him.
“Of course. I’m terrified. And it’s even worse that we…that we work for Him. We need to do something.”
“Jesus, Reggie!” I whisper. “Keep your fucking voice down! You want somebody to hear?”
“What does it fucking matter?” he says, even louder than before. There’s a weird attitude about Reggie now. It’s replaced the bored government drone. Now he, well, he still looks like a bored government drone, but he feels like a rebel, a freedom fighter. Like a member of any one of the thousands of anti-Leader groups it’s his (and my) job to track.
“Reggie, calm down. It’ll be okay.”
“No,” he says. “No, it won’t.”
“We can’t,” he begins, and then climbs on his chair for my emphasis and starts over. “We can’t…stand for this! This is wrong! This is our basic…our basic right! I quit this fucking job, and I’m done being a peasant for this so called fucking ‘Leader.’ Fuck him. Fuck him. He’s one man. One. Man. We’re an entire office, and entire nation, we can take him down! Come on!”
He’s got everyone’s attention. I wish I could be up there with him, wish I could share in the glory the last few minutes of his life is finally showering him with, but I can’t. I’m terrified. And so is everyone else. They’re all staring at him, abject terror in their eyes. Some of them, the closest ones, are even ducking away. They know what’s coming. I do too, but I do my best to remain rigid and attentive, to not take my eyes off of him. It’s the most I can do for him now.
“Who’s with me?” he shouts, and you can hear the fear creeping back into his voice. He knows too. I see him hesitate for a second, see the thought of climbing down and erasing the past two minutes play out in his brain, but it’s too late for that and he knows it. Whatever’s up there have mercy on him. “Let’s take this…this pig fucker out once and for all.” His voice is trembling. He’s sweating and shaking, but he doesn’t quit. “Let’s take back this planet before it’s too late.”
I don’t even hear anything, and then all of a sudden Reggie’s head has disappeared in a cloud of red and white, and I’m covered in his blood and bits of his brain and skull. It leaks into my mouth, copper, and I swallow involuntarily. The thought I’m a cannibal now, I’ve eaten a man’s brain dances throughout my head for a second and then I’m puking into the trashcan by my desk. Two men in combat gear enter the scene and fold Reggie into a body bag one of them is carrying. I don’t know where they came from. I don’t know how they shot Reggie, but they did. They did.
As soon as I can feel my legs again, I go to the bathroom and wash as much of Reggie’s blood and skull and brain off of me as I can. I’m weeping, too, and the salt helps break down the dried blood, makes it come off easier. I come out of the bathroom and there’s a message from my boss on my computer.
Go home and clean yourself up. Be back here in two hours. — Don
November 1, Year 3 (Continued)
“Are you okay?” she whispers into my ear. I’m trembling, still. Of course I’m not.
We’re in the bedroom, but I’m in no mood to do anything besides replay the scene in my head, over and over and over again.
“I mean, thank God he was alone, you know?” she says trying for reassurance. “At least he didn’t leave behind a wife, or kids.”
“Yeah,” I mumble, still numb. “Yeah.”
“It’s okay,” she whispers. “It’s okay.”
“I just want to go to sleep. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t apologize. Shhh. Do you want me to sing for you?”
But my face is buried into the pillow and I’m sobbing as quietly as I can, so I don’t answer.